Walk On

I’ve put this on my blog a few times in remembrance of 9/11.  I can’t come up with anything new because I still believe every word of it.  I originally wrote this back in 2009.

Those four key strokes bring back so many memories for so many. For me, it reminds me of the darkest day I have ever known. Full of death, and fear, and tragedy. Any innocence I may have had, any idealistic hope I had for world peace, it died that day. I saw the face of hatred. I felt the fear the word terror brings. We all did. We cried. We prayed. We sat in front of our television sets and watched horror unfold before our eyes. We looked at an empty sky with a mind-numbing feeling of disbelief. We were in shock for weeks after. We knew there wouldn’t be many survivors. We wanted to close our eyes and pretend and didn’t happen, that people didn’t die that day, and yet, we couldn’t. We knew.

Every year, on that day, I try to remember it. I firmly believe it should be a national day of mourning. Not a holiday. A holiday is a day of celebration. This day should be a somber day. A day of remembrance. A day of solitude.

I honestly don’t think there has been a day since that I haven’t thought of it. It still makes me sad and angry. I think about my son, who will be five next week. And how he didn’t have to live on that day. He was born more than two and a half years later. For him, it will be a very important chapter in a history book. He will ask me what happened that day, and I will tell him. He will ask why, and whose fault it was. And I really don’t know what I will tell him. You can blame Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. You can blame the agencies that could have prevented it had they simply communicated with each other. But at the end of the day, what will that change? What happened, happened.

I think about the jumpers from time to time. And that painful choice they must have had. Die of fire and smoke or leap to certain death. For those who chose to look in pictures and on tv, those images will stay with us forever. I was raised Catholic. To me, suicide is not an option under any circumstances. But what do you call that choice? You know you are going to die. You won’t be saved. What do you do? I pray to God no one ever has to make that choice again.

Since that fateful day, the world has become a chaotic place. It has always been that way, but the mask was torn off that day. What we hoped and prayed wasn’t the case turned out to be very real. Wars have been fought, greed has elevated, and the world’s economy is the worst since the pre World War II years. I believe what we are looking at is evil run rampant. There is no black and white, or even gray areas. It is what it is and it is called chaos.

In the coming years, we will negotiate with fundamentalists who destroy lives. We will see the seeds of greed in our own homes, as the economic meltdown gets worse and every single household is affected. We will see uglier terroristic attacks and somewhere someone will die because of it. We will see the world reject us more and more as our environment is changed in ways we never imagined or in ways we didn’t want to see. We will see areas of the world once vibrant with life turned into desserts.

And yet, we will survive. We will do what we did in those days and weeks after 9/11. We will pick up the pieces of our shattered lives, and look for hope. I pray we will unite and conquer these problems together. Not by electing someone to lead us, but by truly coming together and defeating the evils that plague us. We need to stop blaming others for the shape of the world and form new shapes. We need to recognize that what someone believes in isn’t always wrong, but their own point of view. We need to walk on.

Origins: Bugarach & Bayhealth

The definitive seeds for this blog bloomed in late 2013 and early 2014. But what if I said the germination of those seeds began years before?

In 2009, I met someone who was making some very poor choices with their life.  They told me they had a child with a lot of problems.  One night, that person had to take their son to the hospital.  I thought about meeting the person to talk to them about those very poor choices, but the son’s problems took front and center.  I went to Bayhealth in Dover that night after thinking about it for a couple of hours.  As I walked in, the person didn’t see me.  I saw them rocking this teenage boy child in their arms, back and forth, back and forth.  While I didn’t agree with this person’s life choices, I understood how broken they were.  Their entire life was devoted to helping this child.  I could tell they didn’t have a support system that allowed them to get the help they truly needed.  I walked out of the emergency room waiting area and drove home.  It was about 2am in the morning.  I talked to the person briefly a couple of days later but I lost track of the person and I have never seen or heard from them again.  I’ve always wondered how that person and the boy were doing.  I’ve never shared this with anyone until now, not even those closest to me.  But it stuck with me for some reason.  While I’ve been blessed in many ways to be able to give my own special needs child the most basic of comforts, there are others who are unable to.

Almost two years later, I had a dream one night. It was the most bizarre dream of my life and I remember every single detail of it.  Terrorists were launching a full-scale attack on the airport in San Diego airport.  I was on a plane attempting to take off in the midst of fire and carnage.  I looked out the window of the plane to see  fire and death on the ground.  People were dying before my eyes as I flew off into the sun setting over the Pacific.  As dreams go, moments shift in the blink of an eye.  The plane was flying towards a mountain.  There was a flat area so the plane could land.  There were not that many people on the plane.  We got off after a bumpy landing to find soldiers escorting us to a door in the mountain.

We walked into the mountain and I quickly realized the world was ending. Inside the mountain was an entire city.  It was built like a mall with different stores and what I could only call processing centers.  I walked into an auditorium and saw children and teenagers.  All of them seemed like there was something unique about them.  While I didn’t realize this in the dream, I believe they were special needs children.  Those with Autism, Aspergers, Tourette Syndrome, ADHD, OCD, ODD, and the different.  The separated.  The cast out.  They were told to listen and behave.  I knew instantly that something was very wrong with this whole scene.  For some reason, I got a job at the mountain as a guard of some sort.  I walked around this mountain mall for a while.  People were walking around and seemed happy, but I noticed I didn’t see any of the children that were in the auditorium.  All the people walking around were grown-ups.  What happened to the children?

I found out the answer to that question. Soldiers were placing corpses on a conveyor belt which went through a door to the outside.  I got close enough to take a peek out the door and what I saw horrified me.  Children were being sent into an outside furnace.  Some of the children were still alive as they were led to the slaughter.  A guard motioned towards me and I woke up from my dream.

That dream haunted me for months. One day at work during a break I happened to see a newspaper headline about a mountain in France that was attracting New Age followers.  December 12, 2012 was fast approaching and they believed this mountain in the Pyrenes chain would save them from the upcoming apocalypse.  They call Bugarach the “upside-down” mountain based on its geographical structure.  That apocalyptic moment never came in 2012.  UFOs did not take the New Age followers away to some interstellar promised land.  But when I read the online article about this bizarre mountain in France, they showed a picture of it.  It was the exact same mountain as the one in my dream.   Granted, there was no revelation about a mountain mall at Bugarach.  I began to do tons of research on Bugarach and found some bizarre stuff.

pech_de_bugarach_27072014_02

It was more the dream that stuck with me.  When I began this blog, I did a couple of articles on treatment of those with disabilities in history.  It really isn’t until the past fifty years that those with disabilities began to gain the rights they should have always had.  I even incorporated Bugarach in a never-finished series called “Delaware Horror Story”.  Maybe one day I will pick that up and give the history of what happened to Mike Matthews and Paul Herdman when Sussex County was wiped out due to melting glaciers.  But not today.  For me my dream about Bugarach and the dark horrors within represented a potential future to avoid at all costs.

So why am I just now revealing these what could only be viewed as crazy moments in my life now?  First off, the topic of that person I met with the child at Bayhealth recently came up.  I didn’t realize what an impression that made on me over the years.  I didn’t know the first thing about special needs, how to advocate for rights, or certainly any knowledge of how to help a child who was clearly suffering.  As far as the dream, I have tried to get back to that dream in the six years since with no luck whatsoever.  It was the worst possible future for these kids.  Do I think that could really happen?  I pray to God not.  But if you asked someone if the Holocaust or the wholesale slaughter in Rwanda in the 1990s if they could have foreseen those moments, perhaps not.  History is filled with such atrocities going back tens of thousands of years.  Like I said, history is filled with very bad treatment of anyone different.  As I said in the intro for this, these were just seed germinations.  The simple truth is this blog would have never happened if not for the very difficult birth of those seeds bursting to life all those years ago.  For some, it seems like just yesterday that late 2013 and early 2014 happened.  For me, it feels like a lifetime ago.  Along with all that came before that.

I see what is going on now in our world.  In America, we seem more divided than ever.  I don’t see the “growth” happening for students with disabilities that all the faux Common Core believers profess they are having.  I see people at each other’s throats over party lines.  I believe we are fast approaching a tipping point in society.  A line will be crossed and there will be no looking back.  But I also have hope.  Hope that we can overcome our differences and unite to help all people.

Last Friday night, I attended a candle-light vigil for Lieutenant Steven Floyd in Dover.  For those around the country who read this blog, Lt. Floyd was the correctional officer tragically murdered in last week’s prison siege at the Vaughn Correctional Center in Smyrna, DE.  I saw hundreds of people paying tribute to a man that saved others with his actions.  He was and is a true hero.  Everyone who attended this vigil, along with the accompanying tribute in Smyrna, was there to pay tribute and to mourn.  As we held our candles up high for Lt. Floyd, I remembered another evening where many of us lit candles to remember.

It was after 9/11.  I lived in California at the time.  Word was going around on the internet that everyone should hold a candle-light vigil one Friday evening.  I went outside and found people just coming over.  Some I had never met before.  I became the de facto leader of this group and started to speak.  This was something I never did before.  I thought, “Why me?”  But I got through it.  After everyone left I felt a feeling of peace.  In the midst of unspeakable tragedy, people could still unite for something bigger than themselves.

In the span of my life, my advocacy for special needs, opt out, and getting rid of corporate education reform is still in its infancy.  I truly don’t know what will happen next.  Things are moving very fast and there are many things I need to put in the “unable to control” box.  While I was blogging, life continued to move forward.  I’m at a crossroads with many things in my life right now but I know I have a few things in my corner: friends, hope, and love.  Will the dreams of yesterday and missed opportunities create change in the future?  Time will tell.  But my days of living in darkness, of drowning in it, will not define who I am.  It will not shape my world any longer.  I refuse to let it.

At the vigil last Friday evening, a Reverend spoke to the crowd.  His final words resonated with me like no other words in a long time.  I can’t remember it verbatim, but he was talking about how much people need help from others.  How so many of us just walk right past them.  He said we should only be looking down unless it is to lift another person up.

When we are fighting on Facebook about politics, are we really contributing anything worthwhile to the world?  Do we really believe a local fight on Facebook is going to change the shape of a nation?  Are we that self-absorbed to think that?  I am not bemoaning standing up for rights or what you believe.  What I am criticizing is the way so many of us are going about how they convey their beliefs.  If making a point hurts someone to a level where the words “I’m sorry” are said, it has gone too far.  If friendships die forever over this stuff, that is the truest shame in the world.

The driving force for this blog has evolved in the past couple of months.  I felt I said all I needed to say about certain subjects.  I was no longer in a place to do vast amounts of research and spend so much time on it.  I was physically and emotionally exhausted.  I still am in some respects, but I’ve also experienced a reawakening I never expected.  Here comes the future.

 

The January Shuffle

Music.  It reverberates the soul.  It brings back memories of good and bad times.  When I listen to music, every song brings back something for me.  It could be sadness, anger, hope, triumph, or happiness.  It can remind me of a time period in my life or a specific person.  One of my favorite things to do is put music on shuffle and see what comes up.  I love the shuffle cause you never know what is going to come up.  Anything goes.  I thought I would write a post about what songs come up and what those songs mean to me.  Something a little different.

“Where’s The Ocean”, Toni Childs: The album came out a few years earlier but I first heard this song in 1990.  It was a very difficult time for me.  I was in college, taking six classes after switching my major from business to psychology.  I was working part-time, had a girlfriend, and was cast in a play at college.  It was too much and I fell apart for a while.  I was only 20 and it felt like I was spinning my wheels in ice.  As a result, I wound up switching my major the next semester to communications.  It was a tough time but the lessons I learned from it still help me now.

“Sounds Like A Melody”, Alphaville: Like the last song, I didn’t get into Alphaville until a couple of years after their debut album came out.  But 1987 heralded many changes in my life.  Especially once I became a senior in high school.  I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life.  I had already decided to skip a year after high school instead of going to college.  In the meantime, I partied and partied hard.  I used to go to a nightclub called Kryptons back then.  I was, of course, under age, but having a friend as a bartender helped a lot!  They would play this song there and my friends and I would attempt to dance and probably looked like idiots.  I have lots of memories at Kryptons and most of them are fun times.  I have no clue if the old club is still there.  It changed owners and names a lot in the decade after that.

“Absolutely Still”, Better Than Ezra: Better Than Ezra is one of my favorite bands of all time.  Most people know them by their biggest hits, “Good” or “Desperately Wanting”.  But for me, all their albums are a gold-mine.  This song came out in 2009.  I remember the first time I heard this song.  I was driving my son to daycare and the words just hit a chord inside me.  It made me think of family and the blessings we take for granted.

“I Won’t Let You Go”, Switchfoot:  This band is a Christian band.  Most people don’t know that.  They hit the mainstream back in the early 2000s.  This song came out this fall but I just heard it last month.  When you really listen to the words, it can be confusing.  At first I thought it was about a guy swearing not to give up his woman.  But I soon realized the singer is actually singing through God’s viewpoint.

“Selling The Drama”, Live: 1994.  Senior Year of College.  Senior Week.  I can’t remember for the life of me if I was sober at any point that week.  Live hit it big with this song.  Ed Kowalcyzk has an amazing voice.  This was in the middle of the grunge movement and Live was right up there with Nirvana and Pearl Jam that year.

“In Your Eyes”, Peter Gabriel: Most people know this song from the movie “Say Anything” from 1989.  But the song came out in 1986.  I remember going up to Cape Cod with my cousin Liz one weekend to see our grandparents.  We listened to this album on the way up along with a few others.  I remember walking on the jetty at the beach one night.  I spent many summer days growing up on that jetty.  It was before my junior year of high school.  My life changed a lot during my sophomore year.  New friends, new hang-outs.

“San Diego”, Blink 182: This is from their album that came out last year.  This band is from San Diego.  I lived north of San Diego for a few years back in 2001 to 2004.  My future wife and I moved out there.  We actually lived in a small suburb of San Diego called Rancho Bernardo for about eight months before we bought a house in Riverside County.  But I worked in Rancho Bernardo the entire time I lived there.  California is an awesome place to live.  And no place is better than San Diego.  You can go to the beach and then to Julian about an hour away if you want to see snow in the winter.  I did that one day.  It was awesome!

“My Fault”, Imagine Dragons: I always think of the first year of the Firefly Music Festival when I hear any song from Imagine Dragons first album.  I also think of my mom, who was very sick at that time.  It was 2012.  I felt massive change coming on the horizon.  I knew my Mom wouldn’t last much longer (she passed away in May, 2013).  My son’s disabilities were growing.  Things weren’t good.  But I tried to hang on to hope as best I could.

“Hey Jude”, The Beatles: There will never be another band like The Beatles.  My earliest musical memories involved The Beatles.  They broke up the year I was born but my parents had many of their albums.  I remember listening to them all the time.  But it would be years until I got “Hey Jude”.  This is one of McCartney’s best songs in my opinion.  I saw him in concert back in 1990 up in Philly and the crowd went nuts when this song began.

“Wake Me Up When September Ends”, Green Day: While this song came out in 2004, 9/11 was still very fresh in my mind.  I don’t know if this song is about that tragic day, but I always think about it when I hear this song.  No event in my lifetime left a scar like that day did.  I still remember every single second of that day and the night before.  We had just bought a large screen TV but there were issues with the first one we got.  The screen would get blurry and we couldn’t see anything.  This was when I lived in California.  I got up for work at about 5am, which would have been 8am on the east coast.  I had a horrible dream the night before.  Guerilla soldiers were cutting people with knives at some camp.  That wasn’t something I normally dreamed about at all.  I remember taking a shower and remembering the dream.  It disturbed me on many levels.  The day before I read something in the local newspaper about two nuns who had been freed by the Taliban.  They were recounting their experience with the Taliban.  One of them remembered seeing an office.  On the wall was a calendar of planes.  After I got ready for work, I was drinking a cup of coffee.  My wife and I drove together to work since we both worked in San Diego and we lived an hour north.  I heard something on the tv (with no visible screen) about a plane flying into a building.  I assumed it was in the Mid-East.  I went outside for a smoke and when I came back in the reporter said “another plane has flown into the World Trade Center.”  I sat there with my jaw wide open.  I yelled to my wife what happened.

“Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is A Season)”, The Byrds: When I was about seven or eight, my family and I were driving to church one day.  I had heard this song before.  But for some reason I can’t remember, my mother began explaining how this song came from Ecclesiastes in The Bible.  I remember thinking it was really cool that such a popular song came from The Bible.  It is one of my favorite parts of The Bible.  “There is a time for every purpose under Heaven.”  I actually try to hold on to that when things get rough.  How there is a reason for everything.  We may not know it at the time but sometimes we understand why and what it led to later on.

“Sleepwalker”, The Wallflowers:  In October of 2000, my future wife and I moved to California.  We packed up a U-Haul and drove across the country.  I drove the U-Haul and towed my car behind it.  My wife drove her car behind me.  It took about five days.  On the fourth day, we left our hotel in Amarillo, Texas.  From there we hit New Mexico and then Arizona.  We stopped by a mall in Flagstaff, Arizona.  I heard “Sleepwalker” a few times in the weeks before we moved.  As I passed a record store, I saw the album it was on just came out.  I instantly bought the CD.  From Flagstaff, we drove through mountains that take your breath away.  All the way down to Phoenix.  I replayed “Sleepwalker” a lot during that long winding journey through Arizona.  I saw the sun set to the west as I drove through terrain I had never seen before in my life.  Majestic doesn’t even describe what I felt during this ride.

“Sold Me Down The River”, The Alarm:  I moved to Pennsylvania in 1989.  Remember how I said I was taking a year off after high school?  That year was up.  My parents moved from New York and I went with them.  I decided to start college at Bucks County Community College.  A new friend of mine introduced me to The Alarm.  This song had just come out and I heard it on a Philly radio station called WMMR.  I used to take drives up and down the Delaware River back in those days.  This song was on a lot back then!

“The Space Between”, Dave Matthews Band:  This song reminds me of my fiancé.  Who is now my wife!  This song came out shortly after we became engaged.  The lyrics don’t match what was going on with us, but it reminds me of that time.  The love of my life!

“Communication”, The Cardigans: Shortly after my son Jacob was born in 2004, my wife and I made the decision to move back east.  She was off work for maternity leave for six weeks and then it was my turn.  When I wasn’t spending the day with my son, in those rare moments when he consistently slept, I was packing things up for the big move.  I bought the album “Long Gone Before Daylight” one day and it became my soundtrack for that time.  I remember playing this song as Jacob was sleeping in his aquarium swing.  He looked so peaceful, just rocking back and forth.  When our children are babies, we can remember these moments.  To this day when I see him sleeping, I have that same feeling.  Peaceful.

“Human”, The Killers: Fall 2008.  No one knew what the heck Brandon Flowers was talking about with this song.  “Are we human or are we dancer?”  It didn’t matter.  I loved this song and still do.  I was in the midst of some adult growing pains when this song came out.  Without going into details, it is something we all go through at one period in our lives.  When we mistake confidence as hubris and we become arrogant.

“Take It All Back”, Judah and the Lion: Right now, this is probably my favorite song.  Ever since Mumford & Sons came out, banjos have become a bigger part of music.  At least the music I like to listen to.  This song actually mentions the word banjo.  And then slides into one of the best banjo riffs I’ve ever heard.

“The Tide Is High”, Blondie: If you were alive in December 1980, you know this song.  I lived in Roanoke, Virginia at the time.  I knew we would be moving to New York the next Spring.  But life was good when you are ten.  I remember roller skating to this song at Olympic Skating Rink in Vinton, VA.  I had been a big Blondie fan ever since “Heart of Glass” came out.  Still love this song!

“Let Go”, Frou Frou: In January of 2005, we had been in Delaware for a few months.  I was working at the Bank of America call center in Dover.  I remember a lot of snow.  I had just watched the DVD of “Garden State” and bought the soundtrack.  I remember leaving work one night.  The snow was coming down.  There weren’t many cars on Route 13 in Dover.  This song came on.  I hate driving in snow.  It gives me this weird agita I don’t like at all.  I remember hearing this song and saying to myself “Let Go” as I drove through the snowy roads back home.

“Strangelove”, Depeche Mode: Remember that night club Kryptons I talked about earlier?  This is another one of those 1987 songs that always reminds me of Kryptons.  My friend Pete and my second cousin Krista who was visiting from Oregon decided to go out one night and we wound up there.  I remember having too much Cranberry and Vodka that night.  My bartender friend used to hook me up!

“Come Original”, 311: 1999:  Autumn.  I had just turned 29.  My twenties were crazy.  Maybe it was because I knew I would be turning thirty soon.  I felt my need to party diminish greatly that fall.  Going out three to four nights a week were starting to show.  I wanted, no, needed something more.  After a while, I felt like I was just playing the same record over and over again, every week.  I began dating my future wife that December.

“Blessed”, Elton John: This song reminds me of November of 1995.  Before I moved to Sweden in 1996, I spent about a week there visiting someone.  As she drove me to the airport that snowy, cold, and dark November morning, I already knew I would be moving there.  So did she.  This song was playing as she pulled out of her driveway.  It was 5:30 in the morning.  Flash forward to last week.  I hadn’t heard this song in years.  Whenever I heard it in the past, it reminded me of that person.  For a long time.  I put all that behind me a long time ago, well before I got married.  But when I heard it, I actually listened to the words.  It is about a man getting ready to have a child.  I couldn’t help but think of Jacob and how blessed I feel to have him in my life and proud I am of him.

“Smoky Mountain Rain”, Ronnie Milsap: Yes, you will find me listening to a little bit of country.  Not the modern-day country music, but music from when I lived in Roanoke as a small boy.  This was one of those songs.  I believe it is another 1980 song.  A lot of the songs from that time period I would hear listening to Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 every Sunday night.  I used to tape them on my tape recorder.  I think I may still have one of those cassette tapes lying around somewhere!

“City Of Blinding Lights”, U2: This is in my top five favorite U2 songs.  Easily.  Everything just flows, the piano, the guitar, the bass, the drums.  But Bono’s words hit home with me the first time I heard it.  “Blessings not just for the ones who kneel, luckily.”  When Bono sings “I’m getting ready to leave the ground”, The Edge takes off with this swirling riff that leads to the main chorus.  Aside from being a great song, it also reminds me of one dark night in my life.  I got into a terrible fight with someone in my life and it led to a very strained relationship between the two of us that has never quite been the same since.  It was stupid and silly stuff that started it.  I lacked the patience at the time to deal with that stupid and silly stuff and it is something I regret to this day.

“Take It Easy”, The Eagles: Glenn Frey passed away last year.  It bummed me out for a while.  Probably more than David Bowie who passed a week earlier.  When I lived in Roanoke as a child, I considered this my golden years.  When life was innocent and pure.  Not tainted by politics and real-life issues.  Just being a kid.  Playing with friends.  Taking long walks for hours without worrying about someone kidnapping me like we tend to think nowadays with our own kids.  Exploring the world I lived in every chance I had.  Making all those kid mistakes and just bouncing right back.  I miss those days.  Not days I could or would live in again, but with a fondness that brightens my soul.  And The Eagles were right there the whole time!

“When You’re Falling”, Afro-Celt Sound System and Peter Gabriel: This reminds me of the move from that suburb of San Diego to Riverside County in May of 2001.  To a little town called Menifee.  To our beautiful two-story home with the small back-yard.  Watching the sun set over Mount San Jacinto those first times.  Fixing up our home.  Buying a lawn mower for the first time.  Painting rooms.  Sitting on the patio with the love of my life on those warm nights.  It all seemed so simple and easy back then.

“I Will Follow”, U2: back again!  I saw them in 1985 during their Unforgetable Fire Tour.  In New Haven, Connecticut.  It was the first concert I ever went to.  Bono would just grab someone from the audience and let them play his guitar or dance with them.  As the band has aged over the past thirty-five plus years, it can be hard to imagine them back in those younger days.  How many bands stick around for this long with the same line-up from when they first started?

“Still The One”, Orleans: This reminds me of the summer of 1978.  I was eight years old.  We belonged to this swim club called Aquanet.  My brothers and I spent many of our summer days there.  Swimming, shooting pool, buying candy from the food court, running around, the life guard telling me not to run, listening to the songs of the summer.  Those were the days!

“Since You’ve Been Gone”, The Outfield: This song has a specific story and meaning.  I was in a fight with a friend and I stopped myself from picking up the phone for a long time.  I heard this song in August of 1987.  Right after, I picked up the phone and just said “Let’s meet.”  Sometimes when we let go of our stubbornness it can be a good thing!

“Reunion”, Collective Soul: May 1995.  A transition.  Letting go and letting in.  “Change has been what change will be.  Time will tell then time will ease.  Now my curtain has been drawn and my heart can go where my heart does belong.  I’m goin’ home.”

“Rock The Casbah”, The Clash: Once upon a time, The Clash was the best band in the world.  During their latter days, they hit it big when “Combat Rock” came out in 1982.  There was no more tubular song that fall then “Rock The Casbah”.  This is one of those songs that never seems to come off my MP3 player!

“I Will Follow You Into The Dark”, Death Cab For Cutie: As we get older, we tend to lose people we love more and more.  Sometimes it happens unexpectedly and others it is a long road to travel.  This song reminds me of the fear the dying must have.  A terrifying feeling of an ending.  I believe in Heaven and eternal life.  I believe our souls embark to a life greater than one we can ever imagine.  But that one moment scares me.  I pray I don’t die alone.  I can think of nothing more miserable.  I want those I love to be around me so I can hopefully say goodbye.

“The Sound of Sunshine”, Michael Franti & Spearhead: Another Firefly song.  When this band played, the sun came out after a morning of rain.  Soon, the band played this song.  Beach balls started flying through the crowd.  Everyone was singing along.  People were smiling and dancing.  Enjoying life.  It was the sound of sunshine.

“Times Like These”, The Foo Fighters: In the fall of 2002, I remember driving down the 15 (yes, on the West Coast people put “the” before major highways) and hearing this song on 91x.  That journey from Menifee to Rancho Bernardo.  Menifee to Murietta to Temecula to Fallbrook to Escondido to Rancho Bernardo.  Through the mountains.  The endless line of stopped cars no matter what road you think will be a short cut.  Road rage all around you.  Motorcycles whizzing by as you sit there forever.  Sometimes you just crank the volume all the way to the top and sing your ass off.

“Rain In The Summertime”, The Alarm: Another Alarm song.  But this is my all-time fave of the Welsh band.  “And then I run ’til the breath tears my throat and the pain hits my side.  As if I run fast enough, I can leave all the pain and the sadness behind.”  I’ve run a lot in my life.  I’ve run towards things and away from things.  I’ve physically run.  Away from bullies.  For exercise.  For work.  I’ve run after my dog when she got out of the house a few times.  What has always fascinated me about long-distance runners is the wall.  That moment when they go past that point of exertion and get that extra shot of adrenaline and keep going.  Lately I’ve been looking for that wall.  I want to tear it down and go to that next level.

“What You Need”, INXS: It is hard for me to think of any INXS song without thinking of Michael Hutchence.  He was the lead singer and he died twenty years ago.  He killed himself.  He couldn’t hold on for just one more day.  As Bono from U2 said, he was “stuck in a moment you can’t get out of”.  A decade before that, INXS was on top.  Before “Kick” shot them through the stratosphere, they came out with “Listen Like Thieves”.  “What You Need” was the lead single and it showcased INXS at their musical peak.  Hutchence wailing, the horns blowing, building up to the crescendo.  Some music is just about the band.

“One More Time”, The Cure: In the fall of 1987, my paternal grandmother passed away from cancer.  It hurt, a lot.  She was the first major family member I lost.  My first grandparent to leave this earth.  We were close.  A few years before, I spent a week with her and my grandfather up at Cape Cod.  It wasn’t really on the Cape, but we always called it that.  It wasn’t far from the Cape though.  A beach town called Mattapoisett in Buzzards Bay.  They lived in this enclave called Antossawamock.  I remember one evening during that week, my grandmother and I just sat there talking on the couch, for hours.  She understood me in ways others didn’t.  I tell people the best way to build a relationship with my son is to make that connection.  Once you have that, you are golden.  I had that with my grandmother.  After her memorial service, I walked along the beach listening to this song.  I just wanted one more time.

“Swing Life Away”, Rise Against: Another song from 2004 that reminds me of my son’s first few months.  Wondering what his life would be like.  All the hope and promise.  Watching him during those May and June days sleeping in that aquarium swing.  Taking him for walks to Lake Menifee.  Waiting for his Mommy to get home from work.  Changing his diapers.  Just holding him for what seemed like forever.  Rocking him in the rocking chair listening to a Reggae nursery rhyme CD.  Reading tons of books to him.  Days I cherish.  Days I wouldn’t trade for any other day in the world.

“Ordinary World”, Duran Duran: I wasn’t expecting a great Duran Duran song driving back to college in January 1993.  But there it was.  Driving down the Pennsylvania Turnpike back to Cabrini College.  For months after, I would pop this song on.  I remember working on the school newspaper, The Loquitur.  I was the Associate News Editor.  On Tuesday evenings, you could count on myself and the other staff toiling away until way after midnight putting the paper together to send to the printer the next morning for a Thursday release.  We were a team.  We disagreed, we fought, we argued.  But when it came time to getting it done every week, we laughed, we joked, and we worked.  We made it happen.  And we never failed.  This was in the days before the internet changed journalism by leaps and bounds.  So we literally cut and pasted.  We cropped photos by scissors.  And then scanned them in.  It was fun!

“Don’t Ask The Reason Why”, Restless Heart: Growing up is tough enough.  Trying to cross that bridge between your teenage years and adulthood can be very tough.  It always helps when you have a friend to travel with.  I like to look back now and realize that I once had a best friend and we helped each other on that journey.  Through the laughter and the pain, we both made it to adulthood.  We all have those people where things get so bad you don’t talk to them anymore.  Far too much scar tissue.  But as the years have gone by, I recognize that place and time in my life with purpose.  How it wasn’t as bad as I once thought it was.  That time led to my carefree and reckless twenties.  Which led to settling down from that.  Which led to meeting Deb.  Which led to my incredible and awesome son.  Which led me to now.  I let go of the angst from that time period a long time ago.  Sometimes I want to say hi to my old friend.  But I understand the distance has a reason.  I hope you are well.

“Red Skies”, The Fixx: Back in 1982, the Cold War was in full swing.  We were all scared of the bomb.  Both the USA and Russia continued their nuclear buildup and we lived on the razor’s edge.  No one could have foreseen the collapse of the Soviet Union years later at that time.  It was the most important world event of the time.  After seeing “The Day After” in 1983, the horror of nuclear war came home on the TV screen.  People vaporized in an instant.  I tried to understand how two countries were hell bent on destroying each other.  It never made sense to me.

“Next Generation”, Alphaville: I found this song as a b-side on a 45.  For those who may be too young to understand what the hell I’m talking about, back then songs from albums had singles.  You could get them as a smaller vinyl record called a 45 or as a cassingle (a cassette single).  This dovetails with the last song somewhat.  Alphaville is a German band.  At that time, Berlin was still divided by a wall.  An East and West Berlin existed along with West Germany and East Germany.  It was the settlement Germany had to give to make peace after World War II.  The Russians got part of the country resulting in two different countries, a democratic and free state and a communist one.  Alphaville sang about that dynamic in a lot of their earlier songs.  When the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, many folks in the world were terrified of a reunified Germany.  They thought they would go back to their old habits of the earlier 2oth century.  But the next generation made sure that didn’t happen.

“You Are Not Alone”, The Eagles: In 2007, after 27 years, the Eagles were reunited and it felt so good!  One of the songs on their new album, “You Are Not Alone”, was sung by the late Glenn Frey.  I wrote earlier about that moment of death and the horrifying feeling it must be.  I like to think of this song as that next step as our spirit soars to Heaven.  Into the loving arms of Our Father.  Death is very tough for the living.  But it is life for the dying.  That can be a hard concept to grasp for some people.  In the years since my mom passed, I’ve tried explaining this to my son who still has tough moments with it.  But I tell him she is happy now and she wouldn’t want him to cry about it anymore.  And that she wants nothing more than for him to be happy.

“Forever Young”, Alphaville: The first Alphaville song I ever heard.  The one that made me understand things on that cold and snowy Tuesday morning in December back in 1986.  The song that made me see a different world where we can be whatever we make of ourselves.

“We’ve Got Tonight”, Bob Seger: When we are young, we so desperately want to love and be loved.  We make so many mistakes trying to find that one person.  We stumble down that tricky road.  We dream and hope.  We cry and yell.  We fall and rise.  We find new loves in the wake of the old ones.  Love can take a long time to discover the central mystery to it all.  That defining moment when you realize what life is really about.  When you put away the toys of youth and see life in a new way.  I won’t tell you what it is.  If you don’t know, you aren’t there yet.  And that is a journey we all must make ourselves.

Okay, enough for one night.  I’ll have to do this again sometime!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5,480 Days Later or 131,520 Hours Since or 7,891,200 Seconds Gone

It seems like so long ago and yet it feels like it just happened.  Why?  I still ask myself that many times.  It made no sense.  It seemed like something out of a bad horror movie.  Madness personified.  Human beings who thought they were doing something for a just cause.  Throwing their own lives away while taking out thousands of others.  Destruction on a mass scale.  I’ll never understand it as long as I live.

What happened to the feeling we had after?  When nothing could break us apart?  Yet, here we are, a country divided.  Sides drawn in the long battle of what the true measurement of life is.  How many more sacrifices will there have to be until we finally get it.  That each person is unique, a gift of life.  A person, whole and true.  When will the ugliness that separates us disappear for good?

Nothing will change what happened.  But we can change what will be.  We all make the choice every single day, in small ways and big ways.  We struggle to be free knowing in our hearts that our freedom is something that can fade if we have hate in our hearts.

Remember to love.  In the end, that’s all that matters.

 

 

It’s Time To Begin, Isn’t It?

chestertown-c

Yesterday, I was driving back from dropping my son off at school.  Many travel routes in Northern Delaware were congested due to a truck flipping over and dumping copper pennies all over I-95 in Delaware.  This caused havoc with traffic for the next 18 hours.  I drove down 301 South.  As I drove near an exit for Chestertown, MD, I made a decision to take some time for myself.  I visited Chestertown many years ago in one of those odd moments in my life that didn’t make sense until later.

chestertown-e

My wife would be picking up my son from school so I knew I had some time to kill.  I decided to drive down to the part of Chestertown where the Chester River winds pass.  I needed time to myself.  Away from Delaware.  Away from the craziness of it all.  Away from the DOE, the charters, the districts, the campaign signs, the legislators, all of it.  A chance to recharge my batteries.  I already know upcoming things I will be writing about.  Things that will be vastly different from anything I’ve written before.  I’m scared and excited at the same time.  It will be a radical shift.

chestertown-d

As I walked to the Pavillion overlooking the river, I noticed how quiet it was.  It was almost majestic.  I just stood there, enjoying the silence.  It looked exactly the same as it did years ago.  Nothing had changed.  But I had.  I don’t take these moments as much as I used to.  I need to.  To keep things in perspective.

chestertown-a

I didn’t stay super long, but enough to just calm down and relax.  To see the beauty in this world with fresh new eyes.  To remind myself that no matter what happens, it is still there if you take the time to see it.  I thought of my friend who lost his life in this town 24 years ago.  I thought of my mom who passed a few years ago.  I thought about 9/11 and the 15th anniversary of that horrific day.  I wasn’t sad.  I was at peace, for the first time in a long time.  I still feel the dead guiding me in ways I can’t explain.  Time is passing by.  Every single day I breathe life.  We all have a purpose no matter what it is.  Once you find out what that purpose is, you need to hold on to it and not let a moment pass you by.  But sometimes, you need to take the time to pause, to slow down.  To appreciate what has come before, what we have now, and the promise of what lies ahead.  It’s time to begin, isn’t it?

An Open Letter To Governor Jack Markell

I have tried to stay on the sidelines in the Syrian refugee crisis.  It is a deep concern of mine in many aspects.  My reasons for not publicly commenting on this are very simple.  I don’t want my readers to get sidetracked from education issues I write about.  The extremes on this issue among Delaware citizens is very apparent.  I have seen people de-friend others on Facebook because they don’t agree with their point of view.  There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground on these issues.  I see very Liberal citizens completely blasting Democrat politicians because they don’t agree with Governor Markell or President Obama.  I see those on the far right continue to trash those who seek equity in our society.

The plain and simple fact is this: there is a very huge population of people in this world who have no choice but to leave their country for fear of their very lives.  This is the reality.  Unfortunately, there are those who take advantage of that and come to other countries to perpetuate terror.  We saw it in Boston and Paris in recent years.  When do the needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many?  When does the safety and concern for a country’s current citizens become more paramount than those who are not even having their basic needs met?  This is the crux of these issues.  Both sides have valid points that warrant further discussion.  What drives me crazy is the polarizing effect this has on social media.  I see this with gay marriage and abortion as well.  I cringe when I see very blatant and racist comments when the News Journal posts anything directly related to race on Facebook.

In matters of education, I fully understand I am extremely polarizing on certain issues.  I have never de-friended someone on Facebook though if they don’t agree with my opinion.  I will argue it until the cows come home, but I won’t shut them out.  As a society, we have become very quick to draw that line in the sand.

With that being said, I am taking a stand on the refugee crisis.  I do not think Americans should be put in harms way for the sake of individuals from another country.  While I realize there is more chance of a plane crash happening than a terrorist attack on US soil, the implications and consequences of another event would be long-term and damaging.  I don’t believe the US Government can say with 100% certainty that the vetting process is reliable.  While there is a chance, I can’t support accepting refugees from Syria.  This will tick off many who believe I am a Progressive Liberal.  If anything I am a Progressive Conservative Independent Republican Democrat.  It really depends on the issues.  In a nutshell, I am in the middle.  On this issue, I don’t think the risk of American lives being lost and disrupted is worth it.  9/11 haunted me for many years.  To this day, I always cry on the anniversary.  I didn’t lose anyone that day, but it felt like America was ripped apart and we lost something that day.  It was our sense of safety and security.

Today I received an email as I do every day from various groups and organizations on both sides of the fence on numerous issues.  Upon reading the below letter, I felt it best exemplified my thoughts and concerns with the refugee crisis.  I am posting it here because it is an important issue and a well written letter that best shows where I stand on this issue.  This does not mean I agree with every single aspect of the groups who signed onto this letter.  But on this issue, I stand with their opinions.  I do not think it is a racism or discrimination issue but rather a safety issue.  There is a very clear distinction between the two.

An Open Letter to Governor Jack Markell,
 
In a unified and sincere concern for the safety and economic health of Delaware’s families, we urge you to reconsider your position to relocate “Syrian refugees” into Delaware communities. We ask that you join the 30 other state governors in placing the safety and reasonable concern of your constituents above any other consideration or agenda.  
 
We all share your compassion for those who are suffering and want those who truly need refuge to get it. Like you, we recognize that true Syrian refugees need a safe harbor. That safe harbor is best found in Middle Eastern countries near their homeland beyond the reach of the present violence. The first and most immediate safe place in the region meets their need for safety. Their need is not tax payer supplied housing and EBT cards in Dover, Newark or Seaford, in a culture completely foreign to their Islamic worldview, and 6000 miles from their known way of life. 
 
We know from the recent European experience that “Syrian refugees” comprise people from a dozen or so countries from Morocco to Afghanistan. Claims in Washington of a robust vetting procedure prior to entry to US are not credible. The FBI has reportedly said it is impossible to vet that many people before they come into our country.  Representative Carney and Senator Coons have both expressed their concerns in light of this information.
 
We are equally concerned that your support for President Obama’s planned action reflects a disconnect from those you serve in Delaware. Delaware families are being profoundly impacted by limited resources including a lack of care for our veterans, also a concern of yours. Heroin use is at an epidemic level in our state and destroying families and communities daily. Wilmington continues to suffer from uncontrolled crime and there is a growing racial discontent.  We still face inequalities and deficiencies in our state’s education system that may likely place added burdens on the state’s budget. The people of Delaware just cannot afford the cost, financial and otherwise, of your plan to add to those needing assistance in our state. 
 
You will recall the Tsarnaev family; taken in by the state of Massachusetts under condition of asylum.  The cost to the taxpayer of their direct and indirect benefits exceeded one million dollars. No one in that family ever became self-sufficient or safely acclimated in the U.S.
 
As you know the two sons of that family killed 3 innocent people with a homemade bomb at the Boston Marathon. Over 200 other innocent people were seriously wounded in the blast.  After years in this country they acted with deadly violence as they believed their faith dictates. 
 
Finally, the Tsarnaev family was fully and completely vetted by our Federal immigration authorities as applicants of asylum. 
 
Ultimately, this “compassionate gesture” is estimated to cost the state over 100 million dollars. This cost extended beyond the social benefits taken by the family. It ultimately included, police operations and manhunt, emergency care for the survivors, hospitalization of the wounded, reconstructive surgery, rehabilitation and prostheses needs, business disruption, criminal investigation, state prosecution and public defender costs, and forward projected prison costs; all paid by Massachusetts tax payers.
 
We are faced with new and uncertain dangers that can only increase as we neglect to control those who gain access to our country.  We ask that you block state funding of any sort that would be needed and allocated to resettle this population in Delaware.  Importing persons from a vastly different culture and trying to integrate them is exorbitantly expensive and the unpredictable results can be devastating.
 
Our groups collectively represent many thousands of Delawareans who are passionate, engaged, and aware of the realities of recent events in this world conducted by a few Islamic radicals.  As Governor, your heaviest burden and first concern must be for the safety and common well-being of the people in Delaware.  We ask that you recognize the proven risk associated with similar relocation programs. We further request that you use your authority, in the best interest and public safety of Delaware families and communities, to obstruct President Obama’s ill-considered relocation plan. 
 
Respectfully,
912 Delaware Patriots
Faith and Freedom Coalition Delaware
Central Delaware NAACP
Rev. Dr. Shawn Greener
Frederick Douglass Foundation of Delaware – Sussex County
Institute on the Constitution

Wish You Were Here

11987150_10153587921674099_7535708879419274123_n

Ben Sturner took this picture, and NBC News 10 from New York City posted it on their Facebook page.  What a symbolic and beautiful message for hope.

14 years.  5,113 days.  That’s how many days the families and friends of nearly 3,000 lives have been in mourning for the loved ones lost that day.  I didn’t lose anyone I knew that day.  But I know many who did…

I know a spouse of someone who passed that day.  Her world was torn apart, but she rebuilt her life.  She got married again, and raised her children, including the one she carried inside her that day.  Every year, I see her Facebook page, and the amount of love and support she gets is amazing.  There are no words that will ever take away what happened, no magic to make it disappear.  The question mark will always be there.  But life does move on, one day at a time, one year at a time.

We all, at one point in our lives, wish someone else was still here.  I have quite a few.  Anniversaries are the worst.  But then again, there are the moments we experience, when we can almost feel that person right next to us, hear their voice in our mind, see their eyes.  I don’t think any of us can imagine what it feels like to lose someone until they are gone.  I believe they are in a better place than here, watching over all of us, pushing and pulling, trying to show us the paths we need to take.  We don’t always hear them.  The logic coming down from where they are is very different than the logic on this mortal plain.  The ghosts that we knew…

Walk On: In Remembrance of 9/11

9-11-never-forget-1

I wrote this many years ago on my older blog, Tales From Another Time, but I still believe in these words.  14 years later, when I really remember, I can still vividly recall every second of that horrible day.

Those four key strokes bring back so many memories for so many. For me, it reminds me of the darkest day I have ever known. Full of death, and fear, and tragedy. Any innocence I may have had, any idealistic hope I had for world peace, it died that day. I saw the face of hatred. I felt the fear the word terror brings. We all did. We cried. We prayed. We sat in front of our television sets and watched horror unfold before our eyes. We looked at an empty sky with a mind-numbing feeling of disbelief. We were in shock for weeks after. We knew there wouldn’t be many survivors. We wanted to close our eyes and pretend it didn’t happen, that people didn’t die that day, and yet, we couldn’t. We knew.

Every year, on that day, I try to remember it. I firmly believe it should be a national day of mourning. Not a holiday. A holiday is a day of celebration. This day should be a somber day. A day of remembrance. A day of solitude.

I honestly don’t think there has been a day since that I haven’t thought of it. It still makes me sad and angry. I think about my son, who will be five next week. And how he didn’t have to live on that day. He was born more than two and a half years later. For him, it will be a very important chapter in a history book. He will ask me what happened that day, and I will tell him. He will ask why, and whose fault it was. And I really don’t know what I will tell him. You can blame Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. You can blame the agencies that could have prevented it had they simply communicated with each other. But at the end of the day, what will that change? What happened, happened.

I think about the jumpers from time to time. And that painful choice they must have had. Die of fire and smoke or leap to certain death. For those who chose to look in pictures and on tv, those images will stay with us forever. I was raised Catholic. To me, suicide is not an option under any circumstances. But what do you call that choice? You know you are going to die. You won’t be saved. What do you do? I pray to God no one ever has to make that choice again.

Since that fateful day, the world has become a chaotic place. It has always been that way, but the mask was torn off that day. What we hoped and prayed wasn’t the case turned out to be very real. Wars have been fought, greed has elevated, and the world’s economy is the worst since the pre World War II years. I believe what we are looking at is evil run rampant. There is no black and white, or even gray areas. It is what it is and it is called chaos.

In the coming years, we will negotiate with fundamentalists who destroy lives. We will see the seeds of greed in our own homes, as the economic meltdown gets worse and every single household is affected. We will see uglier terroristic attacks and somewhere someone will die because of it. We will see the world reject us more and more as our environment is changed in ways we never imagined or in ways we didn’t want to see. We will see areas of the world once vibrant with life turned into desserts.

And yet, we will survive. We will do what we did in those days and weeks after 9/11. We will pick up the pieces of our shattered lives, and look for hope. I pray we will unite and conquer these problems together. Not by electing someone to lead us, but by truly coming together and defeating the evils that plague us. We need to stop blaming others for the shape of the world and form new shapes. We need to recognize that what someone believes in isn’t always wrong, but their own point of view. We need to walk on.

*Editor’s note: The original version of this appeared a year ago today.  I have added the U2 video and changed the number of years.

In Remembrance… Everyday

We remember…

The pain always comes back today…

But for some, they carry it…everyday…

A Tribute To Heroes, In Memory of Those Lost on 9/11

Video

 

Walk On: In Remembrance of 9/11

9-11-never-forget-1

I wrote this many years ago on my older blog, Tales From Another Time, but I still believe in these words.  13 years later, when I really remember, I can still vividly recall every second of that horrible day.

Those four key strokes bring back so many memories for so many. For me, it reminds me of the darkest day I have ever known. Full of death, and fear, and tragedy. Any innocence I may have had, any idealistic hope I had for world peace, it died that day. I saw the face of hatred. I felt the fear the word terror brings. We all did. We cried. We prayed. We sat in front of our television sets and watched horror unfold before our eyes. We looked at an empty sky with a mind-numbing feeling of disbelief. We were in shock for weeks after. We knew there wouldn’t be many survivors. We wanted to close our eyes and pretend and didn’t happen, that people didn’t die that day, and yet, we couldn’t. We knew.

Every year, on that day, I try to remember it. I firmly believe it should be a national day of mourning. Not a holiday. A holiday is a day of celebration. This day should be a somber day. A day of remembrance. A day of solitude.

I honestly don’t think there has been a day since that I haven’t thought of it. It still makes me sad and angry. I think about my son, who will be five next week. And how he didn’t have to live on that day. He was born more than two and a half years later. For him, it will be a very important chapter in a history book. He will ask me what happened that day, and I will tell him. He will ask why, and whose fault it was. And I really don’t know what I will tell him. You can blame Al Qaeda and Osama Bin Laden. You can blame the agencies that could have prevented it had they simply communicated with each other. But at the end of the day, what will that change? What happened, happened.

I think about the jumpers from time to time. And that painful choice they must have had. Die of fire and smoke or leap to certain death. For those who chose to look in pictures and on tv, those images will stay with us forever. I was raised Catholic. To me, suicide is not an option under any circumstances. But what do you call that choice? You know you are going to die. You won’t be saved. What do you do? I pray to God no one ever has to make that choice again.

Since that fateful day, the world has become a chaotic place. It has always been that way, but the mask was torn off that day. What we hoped and prayed wasn’t the case turned out to be very real. Wars have been fought, greed has elevated, and the world’s economy is the worst since the pre World War II years. I believe what we are looking at is evil run rampant. There is no black and white, or even gray areas. It is what it is and it is called chaos.

In the coming years, we will negotiate with fundementalists who destroy lives. We will see the seeds of greed in our own homes, as the economic meltdown gets worse and every single household is affected. We will see uglier terroristic attacks and somewhere someone will die because of it. We will see the world reject us more and more as our environment is changed in ways we never imagined or in ways we didn’t want to see. We will see areas of the world once vibrant with life turned into desserts.

And yet, we will survive. We will do what we did in those days and weeks after 9/11. We will pick up the pieces of our shattered lives, and look for hope. I pray we will unite and conquer these problems together. Not by electing someone to lead us, but by truly coming together and defeating the evils that plague us. We need to stop blaming others for the shape of the world and form new shapes. We need to recognize that what someone believes in isn’t always wrong, but their own point of view. We need to walk on.